Monday, June 23, 2008

Review: Driving Sideways

Summary: Leigh Fielding wants a life. Seriously. Having spent the past five years on dialysis, she has one simple wish: to make it to her thirtieth birthday. Now, thanks to the generosity of the late Larry Resnick and his transplanted kidney, it looks like her wish may come true.

With her newfound vitality (and Larry’s kidney) in tow, Leigh hits the road for an excursion that will carry her from Wisconsin to California, with a few stops in between: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Rockies, Las Vegas–and a memorable visit to thank Larry’s family for the second chance.

Yet Leigh’s itinerary takes a sudden detour when she picks up a seventeen-year-old hitchhiker, Denise, a runaway with a bunch of stories and a couple of secrets. Add a long-lost mother, a loaded gun, an RV full of swingers, and Hall and Oates’s Greatest Hits to the mix, and Driving Sideways becomes a hilarious and original journey of friendship, hope, and discovery. -- Ballantine Books

A few weeks ago, Jess Riley author of DRIVING SIDEWAYS asked me if I was interested in reading her new book. Of course, I jumped at the chance. Ms. Riley is a contributor for The Debutante Ball, a very entertaining grog, or group blog, for debut authors that I follow every day. I thoroughly enjoy reading their essays (often times very funny) and following their success stories as they break through with big-time first novels -- it's kind of like I'll be able to say "I knew you when...." I am gradually working my way through the six debut books; and they have all been terrific so far.

I have two words to say about DRIVING SIDEWAYS -- LOVED IT!!! I definitely think it was one of my favorite books that I've read this year. I am so not alone with this endorsing review -- one of my favorite authors said the following:

"Driving Sideways is a gorgeous novel, hugely entertaining and very touching. Jess Riley's voice is irreverent and wonderful, and her writing is genius." -- Marian Keyes

In my opinion, this book had it all -- a wonderful main character and interesting supporting characters, a storyline that drew me in and kept my interest, and an inspiring message for me to take away from this book. Leigh was such a real character to me, and my heart went out to her. It was so easy to feel compassion for her because of her family situation and the PKD disease that struck her at such a young age. That's not to say that I felt sorry for her throughout the whole book. She was an extremely determined and strong woman who also had a great sense of humor. Her insights about people and life's events were hilarious -- I actually found myself laughing out loud many, many times. Leigh is just one of those characters who will stay in my thoughts for a long time.

While the book does deal with a young woman with a very serious disease and could be a downer, it is actually very funny. Leigh's adventures as she decides to take a road trip across the western part of the United States are entertaining to say the least. She meets up with a teenage runaway at the very beginning of the trip, and the relationship they develop provides some memorable moments. I also enjoyed reading about Leigh's friends and some of the characters she meets along the way. Leigh has a somewhat cynical view on life (given her past, how could she not?), and I found her impressions of life to be hysterically funny (and usually spot on!)

I love how the author chose to end this book -- it was just right. I don't want to give too much away because I think you should all read this book, but the ending wasn't tied up in a nice, neat package. If everything had worked out perfectly for Leigh, I probably would have been disappointed -- this ending was much more real to me (and it wasn't the easy way out for Ms. Riley.) This ending also makes me think about Leigh and her situation even after I have finished the book. Although it wasn't a neat and tidy ending, I like that there was still an overall message of hope and optimism.

I strongly recommend this book! Not only did I love it, but now I want to share it with all of my friends. I am even considering it as a book club selection for the Preschool Moms Book Club. It is a highly entertaining book, but it also has a lot of substance and will make you think. I haven't been able to find a reader's guide yet, but I'm sure there will be one in the very near future. As soon as it's available, I will post a link here.

Make sure you come back tomorrow because I will be posting an interview with Jess Riley -- and I will also be running a giveaway for a free, signed copy of DRIVING SIDEWAYS.

Note: Discussion Questions are now available here.

Also reviewed at:
S. Krishna's Books
Books and Cooks


Cheryl said...

Ok so you have me hooked to read this book

Anna said...

Thanks for another reading suggestion. I enjoy your reviews.

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) said...

This sounds like a definte hit! I'm looking forward to your review, too. Thanks for another great recommendation!

Jess Riley said...

Thank you so much, Julie! I am grinning big-time over here. I'm thrilled you liked the book!

Michele said...

Sounds great! I've definitely got to read!

Amy said...

Wow, thanks for that blog recommendation. It looks like a lot of fun.

I want to read this book, now!

S. Krishna said...

Just posted my review of Driving Sideways...LOVED it!